History of the Bundeswehr
The history of the Bundeswehr has been marked by change. It stretches from the armed forces in the Cold War era through German reunification to an army on operations. Since the Bundeswehr came into being, thousands of women and millions of men have made their contribution to the preservation of peace. Here is an overview of six decades.
Origins: the Bundeswehr’s history begins
The history of the Bundeswehr began in 1955. The Cold War is seen as having helped give rise to the Bundeswehr. For more information, see Establishment of the Bundeswehr.
The Bundeswehr in the Cold War
The confrontation that helped the Bundeswehr come into being also gave rise to a considerable increase in personnel and a clear mission: national and collective defence. For more information, see our page on The Bundeswehr in the Cold War.
German reunification posed three challenges in the history of the Bundeswehr: the project of downsizing the Bundeswehr, disbanding the National People’s Army (NVA) of the former East Germany, and building up a new kind of armed forces, an army of unity.
On operations worldwide
Today, the German armed forces are on operations worldwide. But this was not the case for much of the Bundeswehr’s history: until German reunification, the mission of the armed forces was limited to national and collective defence. However, the end of the Cold War brought about new challenges for the Bundeswehr. It had to prove itself as an army on operations.
Changes in the Bundeswehr
In order to meet the challenges of the time and fulfil the corresponding mission, armed forces have to change over the course of their history. The Bundeswehr has been subject to numerous reforms, from the guiding principle of the “citizen in uniform” to the suspension of compulsory military service.
The German Air Force has been shaped by a history of more than six decades. During this time, the Bundeswehr and its air forces have had to face a number of challenges – ranging from aid flights, combat operations and the Starfighter crisis to counterterrorism measures.
Over the course of the Bundeswehr’s history, the Medical Service has evolved into what is probably one of the most important elements of a modern army on operations.
The German Army can look back on an exciting history. Since the 1950s, the Bundeswehr and its army have continually adapted to the changing security policy of the time.
The history of the German Navy is a long one: the historical roots of the unified German maritime forces reach back to 1848. Even then, their vessels were flying the colours black, red and gold. The navy of the Bundeswehr was founded during the Cold War. After German reunification, it became the German Navy. It is deployed on operations worldwide.
Joint Support and Enabling Service
The history of the Joint Support and Enabling Service dates back to the year 2000, when this major organisational element was created in Cologne as a joint organisation of the Army, Air Force and Navy.